Cost estimates that missed mark have Prairie Village scrambling to fund 75th Street revamp

The planned renovation of 75th Street in Prairie Village has been thrown off track on account of too-low cost estimates by the city's construction consultant.
The planned renovation of 75th Street in Prairie Village has been thrown off track on account of too-low cost estimates by the city’s construction consultant.

The city of Prairie Village has spent the better part of a decade actively planning for a much-needed revamp of 75th Street between State Line and Mission, one of the city’s most traveled, visible and decrepit stretches of road. But a badly missed cost estimate by the city’s construction consultant now has Prairie Village’s council and staff scrambling to ensure that the project planned for 2015 can move forward.

Prairie Village applied for federal money in 2010 to help pay for the project, and learned in 2011 that it would have access to $1.6 million in federal funds for the improvements. At that point, Prairie Village’s Public Works department began working closely with a consultant, George Butler and Associates, on design for the 75th Street project, including several public input sessions. Prior to the city’s 2015 budgeting process, Butler gave Prairie Village an estimate showing total construction costs on the project would be around $2.7 million.

Trouble is, when the Kansas Department of Transportation, which administers the federal funds, put the project out for bid, the contractors’ cost estimates, which came back Oct. 22, ran from just under $3.9 million up to $4.3 million. Because Butler’s $2.7 million estimate had been the basis for the city’s budgeting, the city is facing a $1.2 million hole to fund the lowest bid, $3,885,520 from Amino Brothers.

On Monday, the Prairie Village council considered its options, ultimately deciding to direct KDOT to reject all of the bids so the council and staff can either scale the project down, potentially removing facets to reduce costs, or find a way to fund the project as planned. Regardless of which avenue the council decides to pursue, Public Works would work with KDOT to put the project out for bid again in January.

During the discussion Monday, Councilor Laura Wassmer lobbied strongly for keeping all facets of the project, including a sidewalk along the south side of the street and aesthetic elements intended to make the stretch more attractive to pedestrians, intact.

“This is one of our big projects that we have been waiting to fund forever,” she said. “I’m not willing to do it half way. I’m very disappointed about the bid, but the cost seems to be what it is.”

Public Works Director Keith Bredehoeft plans on traveling to Topeka this week to see if he can glean more information about what parts of the cost estimate — asphalt, concrete, etc… — could have cause the city’s numbers to come in so much lower than the contractors’ bids. (The details of each contractor’s bid are not public). Engineer Brian Blizzard of George Butler and Associates was on hand at the meeting as well, and told the council there was “not anybody who is more interested in what we were off on than me.”

Prior to the meeting Monday, Public Works prepared a memo for the council members laying out a possible way to fund the project within the city’s current 2014 budget. Public Works suggested the city could use $500,000 in unspent funds from the 2014 Capital Improvement Budget, $400,000 from the 2015 street paving budget, and $300,000 from the 2015 drainage budget to cover the costs of the 75th Street improvements. Shifting money away from the street paving budget, however, would give short shrift to a maintenance need that is already badly underfunded.

“If we take money out of streets, it’s going to set us behind where we already are — and we’re already behind,” Wassmer said.

Bredehoeft said he believes a March groundbreaking for the project is still possible.

“I know that depending on the magnitude of the changes, we could still meet that deadline.

Bredehoeft and the city’s finance staff will be presenting a variety of project variation and funding options to the council at their next meeting, Nov. 17. You can find out more about the city’s agreement with KDOT and the plans for the project here.